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Climbing our first fourteener – Mt. Princeton

On the Saturday before we left Colorado, Javier and I climbed a mountain. Not just any old mountain – we climbed Mt. Princeton, a 14,000 ft (aka fourteener) mountain that stands among the collegiate peaks, including Mt. Yale, Mt. Columbia and Mt. Harvard, among others. This was a beast of a mountain, and the first one we had ever climbed no less. So right off the bat, I’m patting ourselves on the back because I’m still pretty proud of both of us for (spoiler alert!) making it to the summit. El Sabado antes de dejar Colorado, Javier y yo subimos una montana. No cualquier montana – escalamos Monte Princeton, una montana de 4,200 metros de altura que es una de las “cumbres universitarias”, que incluyen los montes Yale, Columbia, y Harvard entre otros. Esta montana era una bestia, y la primera que nosotros escalabamos. Asi que desde el principio no damos una palmada en la espalda porque estoy muy orgullosa de nosotros (matando la sopresa!) por haber llegado a la cima.

 

panoramic view from the summit!

When we planned this trip earlier this summer, we talked to my cousin Andrew about doing a climb. Andrew is a Colorado native and a seasoned climber / outdoorsman / adventurer, so we knew we’d be in good hands with him as a guide. He planned a trip to Buena Vista with his fiancee Camala and friend Ryan on our last weekend in CO so we could all climb the mountain together. Before we left, he gave us advice on what kind of boots to buy, what pants to wear, what kind of weather to expect, the tools we’d need etc. etc. We felt like we were about as ready as we could be barring, you know, any climbing experience that might have helped us out. We met up with the three of them (and Simba the Shih Tzu!) on Friday night and moved from the Liar’s Lodge to the Cottonwood Hot Springs where we stayed in a big 8-person cabin with a private hot springs in the back. Awesome. Andrew spent the evening dispelling any fears we had about mountain lions and bears (no need to worry! hallelujah!) and then rekindling my worries with new dangers like lightning storms and avalanches (what was I getting myself into!? I hadn’t even considered these!). Then he told us some crazy stories about how he, Camala and Ryan climbed two fourteeners in one day and had to run (on the top of a rocky mountain) from a lightning storm that they saw coming toward them from about 5 miles away. They are completely crazy – and completely amazing. Cuando planeamos este viaje a principios de este verano, conversamos con mi primo Andrew sobre escalar. Andrew es de Colorado y tiene experiencia en subir montanas / actividades al aire libre / aventuras, asi que sabiamos que estabamos en buenas manos con el como guia. El planeo un viaje a Buena Vista con su prometida Camala y su amigo Ryan para nuestro untilme fin de semana en Colorado para asi poder escalar juntos. Antes de viajar, nos dio consejos sobre que botas comprar, que pantalos usar, que tipo de tiempo podiamos esperar, las herramientas que necesitariamos, etc…Sentimos que estabamos tan preparado como era posible, gracias a su experiencia. Nos encontramos con ellos tres (y Simba, el Shih Tzu!) el Viernes en la noche y nos cambiamos del Liar’s Lodge a las termas Cottonwoods donde nos quedamos en una cabana grande para 8 personas con terma privada. Genial. Andrew se paso el resto de la tarde calmando nuestro miedo a leones de montana y osos (no hay que preocuparse! Aleluya!) y luego sumando miedos con historias sobre avalanchas y tormentas electricas (en que nos habiamos metido!? Ni siquiera habia pensado en esos peligros!). Luego nos contos algunas historias locas sobre Camala, Ryan y el subiendo 2 montanas en un dias y como tuvieron que correr (al tope de una montana de pura roca) arrancando de una tormenta electrica que veian venir a unos kilometros. Estan locos pero son maravillosos.
On Saturday morning we woke up at 4AM and finished preparing our backpacks before we hit the road. Javi packed 15 waterbottles in his backpack – enough for the both of us – and I packed up my Nikon and an extra lens, plus all the food. Yes, 15 waterbottles, and yes, I insisted on carrying my big camera. I took the battery pack off to save weight but I had to have that thing on the summit!! I didn’t regret taking it but I did hate myself for about 8 of the 11 hours it took for us to climb up and down for insisting on bringing it. But it was worth it. We arrived at the base of the mountain right as the sun was rising, so we snapped a few pics and took off. We didn’t have a 4-wheel drive, so we literally had to start at the base. There’s a trailhead about 3,000 ft up (it’s a 5,400 ft. elevation gain from the get-go) that you can start from if you can make it up there, but since we didn’t have 4-wheel drive we started at the very. bottom. El Sabado en la manana nos despertamos a las 4an y terminamos de preparar nuestras mochilas antes de salir rumbo a la montana. Javi empaco 15 botellas de agua en su mochila – suficiente para nosotros 2 – y yo empaque mi camara y un lente extra mas nuestra comida. Si, 15 botella, y si, insisti en llevar mi camara. Saque la bateria extra para quitar peso pero tenia que tenerla en la cumbre!! No me arrepenti de llevarla pero si me odie a mi misma por 8 de las 11 horas que nos tomo subir y bajar. Pero valio la pena. Llegamos a las base de la montana justo al amanecer, asi que sacamos algunas fotos del sol apareciendo antes de comenzar a subir. No teniamos un todo terreno, asi que tuvimos que empezar literalmente desde la base. Hay un sendero a mas o menos 900 metros de altura (para llegar a la cima desde el punto de partida son 1.5 kilometros, no es tanto si se pudiera subir en linea recta, pero el camino es mucho mas largo ya que va rodeando la montana) donde se puede comenzar a subir solo caminando pero como no teniamos un vehiculo adequado tuvimos que comenzar desde abajo.
We stopped about 3 hours in for a lunch break and it’s right around then that I started really slowing down. Up until that point I was able to keep up fairly well with the group, but let’s face it, I was always bringing up the rear! After lunch, though, my efforts to keep up caught up with me and I started feeling a little sick. When we finally reached the point where the road narrowed into a trail, I felt like a mess. Camala was a lifesaver and gave me her trekking poles – without which I never would have made it to the summit I’m sure. Andrew, Camala and Ryan decided to go on ahead allowing me and Javi to take it much slower without any need to try to keep up and eliminating any worry about slowing them down, which helped a ton. I sat for about 10 minutes with my head between my knees and literally thought I’d have to give up, but I gradually started to get used to the thinner air and Javi and I kept going, one step at a time. Paramos despues de 3 horas a almorzar y fue justo en ese momento cuando comenze a ir mas lento. hasta ese momento habia podido seguir el ritmo del grupo, pero seamos honestos, yo siempre iba a la cola! Despues de almorzar, mis esfuerzo por mantenerme a la par me derrotaron y comenze a sentirme enferma. Cuando finalmente llegamos al punto donde solo se puede subir a pie, estaba hecha un desastre. Camala me salvo la vida y me dejo usar su palos de escalada – sin ellos nunca hubiese llegado a la cima, estoy segura. Camala, Andrew y Ryan decidieron seguir adelante y dejarnos a mi y Javi atras para asi poder ir a un ritmo mas lento y poder descansar cuando fuera necesario. Eso elimino nuestra preocupacion por hacerlos andar mas lento, y eso nos ayudo. Me sente por mas o menos 10 minuts con la cabeza entre mis rodillas y pense en rendirme, pero de a poco me fui acostumbrando al aire mas fino y continuamos con Javi, paso a paso.
We didn’t take any photos on the way up. It took way too much effort to take my camera out of my backpack and put it back in, so we only took photos when we were stopped for a long breather. We met back up with Andrew and Camala just before we started the boulder path (I’m making up all these terms – so in case you’re wondering, the boulder path is when the dirt path ends and we started to follow little piles of rocks that marked the path along a field of gigantic boulders). We quickly fell behind again and watched as Camala and Andrew turned into little dots in the distance heading toward the ridge – they are mountain climbing masters! And speaking of which, Ryan was probably already at the summit by this point. He got there an hour and a half before we dragged ourselves to the top. The last time we met up with Andrew and Camala was right before we started along the ridge, and here we were rewarded with the most fantastic view we’d seen yet. At this point we were, I’m guessing, at around 12,000 ft. up and had just made to the point where we could see over the ridge. So after snapping a few photos we started along the ridge, heading toward the summit. We had to stop several times along the ridge so I could get a little breather – I was still a mess at this point and Javi was incredible with the words of encouragement to keep me going. No tomamos ninguna foto mientras subiamos. Era mucho esfuerzo tener que sacar la camara de la mochila y ponerla de vuelta, asi que solo sacamos fotos cuando teniamos descansos largos. Nos encontramos con Andrew y Camala justo antes de comenzar el camino de pura roca (este era el momento cuando el sendero se tranformo en un campo de rocas y nuestra unica manera de ubicarnos era siguiendo unas pilas de piedras hechas por gente que eran faciles de diferenciar del resto de las piedras). Rapidamente nos quedamos atras  y veiamos como Andrew y Camala se convertian en puntitos a la distancia dirigiendose a la cima – ellos son maestros de subir montanas! Y hablando de eso, Ryan ya estaba en la cima en ese minuto. El llego arriba una hora y media antes de que nosotros nos arrastraramos a la cumbre. La ultima vez que nos topamos con Andrew y Camala fue en la ultima subida hacia la cumbre, y fuimos compensado con una vista maravillosa. En ese momento estabamos a mas o menos 3,600 metros de altura y era justo el lugar donde por fin podiamos ver al otro lado de la montana en la corniza que se dirigia a la cima. Tuvimos que parar varias veces para recuperar el aire – yo todavia me sentia mal pero Javi fue una ayuda increible con sus paplabras de apoyo para hacerme seguir adelante.

these are the little piles of rocks we’d look for that marked the trail once the trail ended

looking down

the “path”

looking toward the summit in the distance

the summit in the background – one last long breather 

last photo before climbing the summit

It was pretty steep for the last mile or so, and the final summit took us about 45 minutes to climb. Javi made it to the top before me, and when I made it to the summit it took me a good 10 minutes to recover before I could get my camera out and take photos, which for me is really saying something. But – WE DID IT! Camala, Andrew and Ryan were all there waiting for us. Here’s something pretty special that happened too – we found a nice guy to take a photo of us and right as he was snapping the picture, a hummingbird flew into the middle of the shot. We all flipped out – it just hovered there for a minute and took off! Do hummingbirds normally hang out at 14,000ft? It didn’t make it into the photo, unfortunately, but it was a cool moment. The whole thing was a cool moment. We had about 10 more minutes to revel in our accomplishment, then we had to take off for the 4 hour retreat. El ultimo kilometro y medio fue muy empinado, y la ultima cima nos tomo 45 minutos. Javi llego a la cumbre antes que yo, y cuando yo llegue me demore mas o menos 10 minutos en recuperarme antes de poder sacar mi camara de la mochila para sacar fotos, lo que en verdad quiere decir que estaba muy muy cansada. Pero 0 LO LOGRAMOS! Camala, Andrew y Ryan estaban ahi esperando por nosotros. Esto es algo muy especial que paso tambien – le pedimos a una persona que tambien estaba en la cima que nos sacara una foto de todo el grupo y justo cuando iba a sacar la foto, un picaflor se detuvo por un segundo al frente de la camara. Todos quedamos impactados – se quedo flotando al frente de nosotros por un segundo y despues desaparecio! Es normal ver picaflores a mas de 4 mil metros de altura? No pudimos capturarlo en la foto, pero fue un momento muy especial. Todo fue un momento especial. Tuvimos 10 minutos mas para disfrutar la hazana, para luego tener que bajar durante 4 horas.

Chupete apparel at 14,000 ft! 

The way down was so, so much better than the climb up. It seemed like the road stretched out for an extra 3 or 4 miles than what we remembered, but we finally, finally made it to the bottom. We had just enough energy to snap this one shot of the 5 of us before we collapsed in our cars and headed back to the hot springs. And let me tell you, there are no words to describe how elated we all were when we slid into that hot springs on the back deck of our cabin. It was the perfect way to recover from an incredibly strenuous day. I want to end this post with a gigantic THANK YOU to Andrew, Camala and Ryan for taking a chance on a couple of rookies and taking us with them on such a cool adventure. It’s definitely one of the most incredible things Javier and I have ever done and we can’t wait for the next opportunity to climb another fourteener. So THANKS again you all! You are the best!! La bajada fue mucho, mucho mejor que la subida. Parecio que el camino de alargo por un par de kilometros de como lo recordabamos, pero finalmente llegamos abajo. Teniamos energia para una foto mas de los 5 antes de colapsar en el auto y volver a las termas. Dejenme decirles, no hay palabras para explicar lo bien que nos sentimos cuando nos metimos a esa terma cuando volvimos a la cabana. Fue la forma perfecta de recuperarnos despues de un dia tan cansador. Quiero terminar este larguisimo post con un GRACIAS enorme para Andrew, Camala, y Ryan por jugarsela por los novatos y llevarnos con ellos a esta genial aventura. Es definitivamente una de las cosas mas increibles que hemos hecho y no puedo esperar a tener otra oportunidad de subir una montana como esta. Asi que GRACIAS a todos ustedes!! Son los mejores!!

that is one happy Andrew

arguably the best photo of the trip! Victory! Exhaustion! Bacon cheeseburgers, ice cream and a hot springs in the immediate future! 

14 thoughts on “Climbing our first fourteener – Mt. Princeton Leave a comment

  1. Wonderful photos! Nice 3D effect on some of them. And the haze just gives it an ethereal look. It is obvious that you all are having a great time. Colorado is a beautiful place to have adventures!

  2. Wow! what a great post it is I liked your determination its not quite easy to complete this sort of adventurous trail. You have captured some marvelous photographs I am going to pin them. Great work and really good job…

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